It is a truth universally acknowledged in auction houses that anything owned by Jane Austen will no have no want of clamoring fans willing to pay a large fortune for it.
A turquoise-and-gold ring which belonged to the English novelist goes on sale in Dublin Tuesday. The auction house Sotheby’s estimates it will sell for $30,000 to $45,000.
Austen (1775-1817) is the author of several acclaimed romantic novels revolving around Regency-era families of the lower English gentry that have been hugely popular with both scholars and readers for some two centuries.
Some of the ring’s admirers have wondered if the ring was a gift from Tom Lefroy, an Irishman who was Austen’s closest thing to a love interest of her own. Austen corresponded with Lefroy during the time that she wrote Pride and Prejudice. Some speculate — as dramatized in the 2007 film Becoming Jane – that Lefroy was the inspiration for Austen’s most memorable character, Mr. Darcy.
But the ring more likely came from less romantic origins. Sotheby’s literature expert, Dr. Gabriel Heaton, guesses that it may have been a gift from Austen’s brother Henry, who acted as her literary agent. The ring is found in a box from a jeweler in the City of London, where Henry worked as a banker.
After Austen’s death, her sister Cassandra gave the ring to Henry’s second wife, Eleanor Austen. Eleanor bequeathed the ring to Jane’s niece, Caroline, in a note which will be auctioned along with the ring.
In the letter dated November 1863, Eleanor wrote, “The enclosed ring once belonged to your Aunt Jane. It was given to me by your Aunt Cassandra as soon as she knew that I was engaged to your uncle. I bequeath it to you. God bless you!”
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The ring has remained in the Austen family until now.
First editions of several of Austen’s novels will also be auctioned tomorrow, The Guardian reports. It’s certainly not unusual for Austen paraphernalia to command high prices. A manuscript of Austen’s last unfinished novel sold for $1.6 million one year ago.
In 2007, a portrait believed to be the only painting of Austen was offered at Christie’s for a guide price between $400,000 and $800,000. In the midst of doubts over whether the portrait was truly Austen, bidding went no higher than $350,000 and the painting was withdrawn from auction.